BOOK REVIEW: Raising Dragons Graphic Novel by Bryan Davis & James Art Ville

I first discovered Bryan Davis’ Dragons in our Midst series when it released way back in 2004. I remember reading the first book, Raising Dragons, and instantly being drawn in to the story and the characters, and the sheer novelty of a Christian YA fantasy novel that combined dragons, the Bible, and action into one sleek story. Now, over a decade later, Bryan Davis has partnered with James Art Ville to create the graphic novel version of the book that has now grown into three epic dragon-filled book series.

The story is straight from Raising Dragons, and those who have read that book will not find anything new here story-wise. The book centers around a boy named Billy Bannister, who is just trying to survive school when he discovers a strange ability: he can breathe literal fire. Soon, his power is growing out of control, and so is the secret his family has been hiding all these years. Now, an ancient dragon slayer is after Billy and his new, mysterious friend, Bonnie Silver. Together, they must unravel the mystery of Merlin’s riddle, as well as survive the snowy mountains surrounding their town. Only their faith in God can save them now.

Told in a graphic novel format, the story of Raising Dragons is pretty easy to follow. I would even venture so far as to say the graphic novel treatment actually lends itself to the action sequences pretty well, and makes them a bit easier to follow than the novel. However, some of the initial weaknesses of the first book are revealed here. Davis has grown much in his story-telling abilities, and the fact that this first book features some convenient plot devices and logic jumps become even more apparent when pared-down for the visual format. Some of the characterization is also lost in translation, and often we find others explaining the emotions of the main characters rather than seeing them for ourselves. All said, the story was so innovative back in 2004 that much of its weaker points were not as easily noticeable.

As for the art, that is where Raising Dragons Graphic Novel shines. Ville’s style is perfect for this brand, and the way he has brought each of these characters and dragons to life is incredible. The art is great, and it is very easy to see some of his influences from Akira Himekawa and others. The panels flow well from one to the next, and definitely tell the story well. The only thing I could have seen it benefit from is the breakup of some of the sections into chapters. It might have been a tad easier to follow the storyline if there were some definite breaks between sections. Otherwise, the art is really top notch.

Fans of the original Raising Dragons novel will likely love this, as I did, and newcomers to the series can definitely start here as all the essential plot points to set up later books are contained here. It’s definitely worth your while to check out this incredible new artist, and revisit an old favorite in a new way.

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